Three-thousander

Three-thousanders[1] are mountains with a height of between 3,000 metres (9,800 ft), but less than 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) above sea level. Similar terms are commonly used for mountains of other height brackets e. g. four-thousanders or eight-thousanders. In Britain, the term may refer to mountains above 3,000 feet (910 m).[2]

Climatological significance

In temperate latitudes three-thousanders play an important role, because even in summer they lie below the zero degree line for weeks. Thus the chains of three-thousanders always form important climatic divides and support glaciation - in the Alps the 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) contour is roughly the general limit of the "nival step"; only a few glaciated mountains are under 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) (the Dachstein, the easternmost glaciated mountain in the Alps, is, at 2,995 metres (9,826 ft), not a three-thousander). In the Mediterranean, however, the three-thousanders remain free of ice and, in the tropics, they are almost insignificant from a climatic perspective; here the snow line lies at around 4,500 metres (14,800 ft) to 5,000 metres (16,000 ft), and in the dry continental areas (Trans-Himalayas, Andes) it may be up to 6,500 metres (21,300 ft) high.

Alpinism

The designation "three-thousander" is often used for touristic reasons where only a few individual summits exceed this height – e. g. in the Southern Alps, in the eastern part of Austria, in the Limestone Alps, in the Pyrenees or the rest of Europe. For example, the Parseierspitze in the Lechtal Alps at 3,036 metres (9,961 ft) is the only three-thousander in the Northern Limestone Alps.

In the Alps or Pyrenees, expeditions to areas of over 3,000 metres (9,800 ft), with their often steep mountainsides and sudden changes in weather conditions, require mountaineers to have considerable experience and weatherproof equipment, which distinguishes them from ascents of many two-thousanders.

The term "easy three-thousander" (Leichte Dreitausender)[3] or "Hikable three-thousander" (Wanderdreitausender) describes mountains above 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) with routes that do not pose any particular challenges. Typical "easy" three-thousanders, for example, include the Piz Boe (3,152 metres (10,341 ft)) in South Tyrol, which is an hour's walk from the Pordoi Cable Car, or the 3,033 metres (9,951 ft) high Piz Umbrail, accessible from the Umbrail Pass. Amongst the highest easy three-thousanders in the Alps are the Üsser Barrhorn (3,620 metres (11,880 ft)) in the Wallis Alps and the Monte Vioz (3,645 metres (11,959 ft), southern Ortler Alps).[4] For ascents of these mountains the main risk is the lack of acclimatisation at these heights. The highest technically accessible three-thousanders in the Alps (and also the highest cable cars in Europe) are the Klein Matterhorn (3,883 metres (12,740 ft)) near Zermatt and the Aiguille du Midi (3,842 metres (12,605 ft)) on Mont Blanc.

Alps

The easternmost three-thousanders in the Alps are in the Hafner Group in the east of the High Tauern (from west to east: Großer Hafner 3,076 metres (10,092 ft), Lanischhafner 3,018 metres (9,902 ft), Lanischeck 3,022 metres (9,915 ft), Großer or Malteiner Sonnblick 3,030 metres (9,940 ft), and Mittlerer Sonnblick 3,000 metres (9,800 ft)). The northernmost 3,000ers are in the northern chains of the High Tauern, Zillertal, Ötztal, and Stubai Alps (as well as the Parseierspitze in the Lechtal Alps). The southernmost 3,000ers are on the main chain of the Maritime Alps (Argentara Group), the Mercantour and the Pelat Group with about a dozen main peaks over 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) above sea level.[5] In the eastern Alps the southern boundary lies in the Bergamo Alps (3 main summits),[6] of the Adamello–Presanella Group (about a dozen)[7] and the Dolomites (about 50 peaks).[8] So the ranges of the Alps that contain mountains over the 3,000 m mark comprise roughly two thirds of the area, the 3,000er zone in the Western Alps coming much closer to the edge of the Alpin region than in the Eastern Alps with their extensive system of foothills. The easternmost 3,000er is over 200 kilometres (120 mi) from the Pannonian Alpine perimeter, the westernmost only about 60 kilometres (37 mi) from the Rhone valley. A large part of this sensitive, high Alpine region is protected by conservation areas, but it also forms the touristic heart of the Alps.

Easternmost three-thousander in the Alps:Mittlerer Sonnblick3,000 mAustria47°03′12.8″N 13°25′54.9″E
Westernmost three-thousander in the Alps:Le Rochail3,023 mFrance44°58′51.0″N 6°01′41.0″E
Northernmost three-thousander in the Alps:Kempsenkopf3,090 mAustria47°11′43.2″N 12°44′52.5″E
Southernmost three-thousander in the Alps:Mont Clapier3,045 mItaly/France44°06′52.7″N 7°25′11.1″E

Switzerland, France, Austria, and Italy have many hundreds of Alpine peaks over 3,000 metres. Germany's Zugspitze, at 2,964 metres (9,724 ft), just falls below the line, whilst Slovenia's Triglav is well under it. Liechtenstein, despite being the only country lying entirely within the Alps, has no 3,000ers on its territory.

Rest of Europe

Apart from the Alps, the dominant range in Europe – if one excludes the Caucasus, which otherwise, in Mount Elbrus (5,642 m), would have the highest mountain in the continent – only the following ranges have three-thousanders:

Musala at 2,925 m, the highest mountain in southern Europe (i.e. excluding the Iberian Peninsula), does not come close to the mark. The Dinaric Alps, Carpathian Mountains and Sistema Central are less than 2,700 m high, and the other ranges in Europe are below 2,500 m.

See also

References

  1. English sources for this term are numerous and include: Mountain Walking in Austria by Cecil Davies (2001); Rough Guide to the Pyrenees by Marc Dubin (2004); The Alpine Journal, Vol 61 by The Alpine Club (1956) and The Ultimate Challenge by Chris Bonington (1973).
  2. Nuttall, John and Nuttall, Anne (2008). The Mountains of England and Wales, Vol. 2, 3rd ed., Cicerone, p. 92. ISBN 978-1-85284-589-6
  3. Dieter Seibert, Leichte Dreitausender. Die 99 schönsten Touren mit Weg (in German), Bruckmann-Verlag, ISBN 3-7654-3677-1
  4. Matthias Kehle (19 September 2009), "Dreitausendersammeln" (Webrepro, einfach-wandern.blogspot.com), Badisches Tagblatt (in German), retrieved 2011-04-14
  5. Zusammenstellung in Vanoise Groups and Haute Provence Groups, both at summitpost.org
  6. Alpi Orobie: Vette, Italian Wikipedia
  7. Gruppo dell'Adamello: Cime principali, Italian Wikipedia
  8. Dolomiti: Le vette più alte, Italian Wikipedia
  9. Pyrenäen, Vuelta Rad- und Wandertouren (www.vuelta.de)
  10. Ski-Durchquerung Sierra Nevada-Nationalpark, Abanico Individuell Reisen (www.abanico-reisen.de)
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